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Ports & Ships Maritime News

7 July 2011
Author: Terry Hutson


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Low tide in Durban Bay and one of the many car carriers to visit the port each month, PRIMROSE ACE is seen at an unusual berth – over on the Bluff. Passing in front of her but at some distance shortened by the telephoto is the pleasure craft ALLEN GARDINER, a former WW2 air force crash boat now used for more pleasnat duties on the bay as a floating restaurant. Picture by Terry Hutson


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South African port statistics for the month of June 2011 that are to hand courtesy of Transnet NPA, show that total cargo handled at all ports amounted to 21.289 million tonnes (20.506mt for the previous month) while containers totaled 393,795 TEUs, up from 366,336-TEUs for May.

The number of containers handled in June (393,795-TEUs) is one of the largest monthly container volumes ever, suggesting that South Africa is back at work. Of this quantity 204,786 TEUs were exported, compared with 189,009 TEUS imported during the month.

To compare the 2011 June figures year on year with June of 2010, when a total of 20.715mt of cargo was handled (333,559-TEUs), go to the following link CLICK HERE. Use your BACK button to return to this page.

In June the number of containers handled at Ngqura fell to 31,736-TEU, while nearby Port Elizabeth outperformed its specialist container port neighbour by handling 38,919-TEU. One wonders if there is any point in having these two ports, 20km apart, operating as separate entities. In addition, the message seems clear that Port Elizabeth will continue to stand up and attract its own business and should therefore qualify for an urgent upgrade in container handling equipment.

The country’s two bulk ports again achieved average volume during June, with Richards Bay recording a total cargo of 5.773mt and Saldanha 4.892mt.

As is standard with figures reported in PORTS & SHIPS, they reflect an adjustment on the overall tonnage to those provided by Transnet to include containers by weight – an adjustment necessary because Transnet NPA measures containers by number of TEUs and no longer by weight. That may or may not change in the future.

To arrive at such a calculation, PORTS & SHIPS has used an estimated average of 13,5 tonnes per TEU, which may involve some under-reporting but until the IMO enforces the weighing of containers at all ports we will have to live with these estimates. Nevertheless, we continue to make this distinction to prevent South African ports from being under-reported internationally.

Figures for the respective ports during June 2011 are (with May 2011 figures shown bracketed):

Cargo handled by tonnes during June 2011

PORT June 2011 mt May 2011 mt
Ricahrds Bay 5.773 6.020
Durban 7.538 6.510
Saldanha Bay 4,892 4.790
Cape Town 1,138 1.193
Port Elizabeth 1/157 0.954
Ngqura 0.428 0.570
Mossel Bay 0.122 0.194
East London 0.241 0.280
Total all ports mt 21,289 20.506


Containers (measured by TEUs) during June 2011
(TEUs include Deepsea, Coastal, Transship and empty containers all subject to being invoiced by NPA

PORT June 2011 TEUs May 2011 TEUs
Durban 254,618 228,425
Cape Town 60,545 59,786
Port Elizabeth 38,919 27,179
Ngqura 31,736 42,236
East London 4,675 4,234
Richards Bay 3,302 4,476
Total all ports 393,795 TEUs 366,336 TEUs

Ship Calls for June 2011

PORT June 2011 vessels Gross tons May 2011 vessels Gross tons
Durban 374 11,039,791 375 10,981,707
Cape Town 214 4,071,827 238 4,179,800
Richards Bay 157 5,216,347 127 4,140,824
Port Elizabeth 104 2,480,007 96 2,525,806
Ngqura 33 1,230,590 32 1,339,519
Saldanha Bay 45 2,842,973 41 2,792,108
East London 27 685,595 24 628,287
Mossel Bay 131 165,781 119 225,223
Total all ports 1083 27,732,911 1049 26,813,274

- source TNPA, but with adjustments made by Ports & Ships to include container tonnages



June figures showing the volume of coal exported through RBCT were not available at the time when this edition went live. The June statistics will be included as soon as they become available by retro-posting on this page, so please come back later. Throughput at the Richards Bay Coal Terminal showing exports in tonnes


Month Monthly exports YTD exports Annualised M/T/pa Ships Trains
Jan 2011 4,389,925 4,389.925 51.55 45 597
Feb 4,567,950 8,957,875 55.27 44 705
Mar 5,364,674 14,322,549 57.93 57 710
Apr 4,807,041 19,129,590 58.03 53 689
May 3,572,127 22,701,717 54.72 41 560
June  4,776,609 27,478,326  55.26  42  435 


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The following report was received yesterday (Wednesday) from Captain NT Campbell, Regional Manager Southern Region, SAMSA.

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The Maltese registered tug AMBER 2 towing the Norwegian owned barge EIDE BARGE 32 was on passage around South Africa when they encountered heavy weather off the Transkei coast on the evening of 5 July 2011.

The tow line between the tug and barge parted and while attempting to reconnect the tow using the emergency towing bridle the pennant failed. The barge is now drifting in an offshore direction 84 nautical miles north east of East London.

The 91 metre long barge is a specialist barge equipped for the transport and laying of large high voltage cables, umbilicals and flowlines. The barge has on board 72 tons of marine gas oil.

In response to the incident the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) through its Casualty Response Unit has taken the following actions:


  • At 2000 SAST 5 July the salvage tug SMIT AMANDLA on contract to the South African government and under the direction of SAMSA was sailed to assist with the recovery of the barge and to protect the coastline from possible pollution;
  • A team of salvage specialists from Smit Amandla Marine is currently (Wednesday) being airlifted to the barge to assist with the reconnection of the tow; and
  • On successful reconnection of the tow, either by the Amber 2 or the Smit Amandla the owners of the barge will be directed, in terms of the Marine Pollution (Control and Civil Liability) Act, to proceed to East London where the seaworthiness and towing equipment of both the tug and the barge will be inspected to ensure that there is no further threat to the safety of the crew or the South African environment.

Capt. NT Campbell
Regional Manager: Southern Region










SAMSA reports on the latest:

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Amber II – picture courtesy SAMSA

The Maltese registered tug AMBER II towing the Norwegian owned barge EB 32 was on passage around South Africa when they encountered heavy weather off the Transkei coast on the evening of 5 July 2011. The tow line between the tug and barge parted and while attempting to reconnect the tow using the emergency towing bridle the pennant failed.

The helicopter that was tasked to take the salvage team out to the vessel developed a problem with the winch used to lower the salvage team onto the barge. A replacement helicopter had to be sourced from Gauteng and is expected to deliver the salvage team to the barge either late this afternoon (Thursday) or at first light tomorrow morning.

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Eide Barge 32 – picture courtesy SAMSA

The barge is currently drifting 30 nautical miles offshore, the distance from the coast has therefore increased and she is still drifting in an offshore direction; and at present poses no threat. The tug Amber II is stationed next to the barge awaiting the arrival of the Smit salvage team.

The owners of the tug and barge are cooperating fully with the directive issued by SAMSA.

The salvage tug Smit Amandla was due to arrive on station this morning, 7 July; however it had to be diverted to another casualty posing a much greater threat to the environment and has arrived at the casualty.

The motor tanker PHOENIX was on passage along the coast in a northerly direction, bound for the scrapyards on the Indian sub-continent when the main engine failed. The vessel was drifting towards the coast some 8 nautical miles off Hamburg. The vessel dropped both anchors but was dragging towards the coast. The tanker has no cargo on board but has 300 tons of heavy fuel on board.

In terms of the Marine Pollution (Control and Civil Liability) Act the owners have been directed to connect a tow wire with the Smit Amandla to allow the vessel to be towed offshore and therefore mitigate any threat to the South African coast. The weather conditions in the area are poor with strong southerly winds and a large swell running.

Two simultaneous casualties highlights the necessity of having suitable resources e.g. salvage tugs and helicopters with an over water capability available at short notice. The waters off the Eastern Cape are notorious for the danger they pose to shipping, the lives of the crew members and the threats posed to the environment yet there is very limited response capability available in the area.

Capt. NT Campbell
Regional Manager: Southern Region




The following further update regarding both ship casualties off the Eastern Cape coast has been received:


At 1130 SAST 7 July 2011 the Smit Amandla made fast to the MT Phoenix thus mitigating any threat to the South African coast. At 1530 the anchors were weighed and the Smit Amandla proceeded to tow the vessel 70 nautical miles offshore.

SAMSA has advised the owners that on arrival 70 nautical miles offshore that the status of the vessels main engine will be reviewed and a directive issued to either;

1./ Resume the voyage under its own power while not permitted to close within 70 nautical miles; or
2./ The Smit Amandla will remain on station until a tug has been secured to tow the vessel to India; or
3./ If there is any doubt concerning the functionality of the main engine a standby tug has to be contracted to escort the vessel out of South Africa’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

The vessels position will be monitored through the satellite Long Range Identification and Tracking system (LRIT) by SAMSA’s Centre for Seawatch based at the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Cape Town.


The helicopter has departed Durban with the Smit salvage team on board; it is unlikely that they will arrive with sufficient daylight remaining to be able to re-connect the tow today. The helicopter with the salvage team will overnight at Coffee Bay and deploy at first light tomorrow morning (Friday).

The barge remains over 30 nautical miles offshore and therefore poses no threat to the coast.

Capt. NT Campbell
Regional Manager: Southern Region



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One of the worst fears surrounding piracy off the Horn of Africa has come a little closer to being realised with the news that a Liberian crude oil tanker, the BRILLANTE VIRTUOSO (149,601-dwt, built 1992) is on fire in the Indian Ocean after being attacked and boarded by Somali pirates.

The tanker came under attack 20 n.miles from Aden while the ship was approaching the Yemen port to take on board guards for the next section of its journey from the Ukraine to China. The 275m long ship is carrying one million barrels of oil. Either during the attack or afterwards a fire broke out in the accommodation area and on the bridge, forcing the seven pirates and the crew of 26 Filipinos to abandon ship, which all managed in safety.

It is thought that the crew may have taken refuge in a citadel onboard the ship, frustrating the pirates who then used a rocket propelled grenade which started the fire. As the fire spread the pirates abandoned the ship while the crew went overboard using one of the ship’s life-rafts. They have since been rescued by an American warship, the USS PHILIPPINE SEA.

Later reports said that two tugs from Aden have taken the tanker in tow and are fighting the fire.

Brillante Virtuoso is owned by the Greek company Suez Fortune Investments and is managed by Central Mare Inc of Athens.

Pirate attacks have been few and far between in recent weeks owing to the onset of the monsoon, which brings rougher than usual seas and strong winds.

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Heavylift cargo being loaded at Durban’s Maydon Wharf. Picture by Terry Hutson

Operators are confused and concerned at an arbitrary decision by Transnet Port Terminals to ban all heavylift cargo from Richards Bay, which it says must in future be handled at Durban’s Maydon Wharf. At the same time a global shipping forwarder has forecast that heavylift cargo to Africa is set to grow in the next decade.

The decision by TPT to stop all heavylift and project cargo, has puzzled heavylift specialists who say they were not consulted on the matter.

TPT made the announcement in May with a communiqué from Warren Vickers, TPT commercial manager saying that in future project and heavylift cargo would only be accepted in Richards Bay on a case-by-case assessment basis.

No reasons were given for the decision except that heavylift cargo at the time of an inspection of the port terminal was seen to be congesting the quayside at Richards Bay. By forcing the cargo to be moved to Durban is simply taking the problem from one port to another, say the local forwarding and transport operators. They point out that facilities at Maydon Wharf are themselves far from ideal, with cramped space in which to operate. In addition the road network out from Maydon Wharf is hardly friendly to heavylift and oversized cargo and is already heavily congested with large trucks carrying or collecting grain and minerals.

One of the problems is that heavylift and project cargo is a relatively ‘new’ product for South Africa whose ports are no longer geared to handle such cargo. In the past special heavylifts were few and far between and were handled competently, often from Richards Bay which was seen as the logical port to use, being the closest to the Gauteng region.

More recently however the port facilities have become crowded. In Durban this is a result of dramatic increases in containers and motor vehicles, which has seen the specialist breakbulk Pier 1 given over to containers. It was intended to transfer breakbulk cargo to the new Point wharfside area, which was considerably enlarged and designated for breakbulk cargo. Since that decision however, the Point has become instead mostly a car terminal, while one or two shipping lines appear to have a monopoly of the balance of space for containers and some breakbulk ro-ro cargo.

This has forced the removal of general breakbulk cargo to the older Maydon Wharf area, which is already crowded and lacks a wide wharfage area to handle cargo efficiently.

Meanwhile, a leading global shipping forwarder and agent, Tuscor Lloyds says that Africa is one of the few regions of the world where there is genuine expectation of large scale heavy lift growth in the next decade.

This confidence has promoted Tuscor Lloyds to extend its freight forwarding services to cover many ports in Western Africa after many years serving ports in North and East Africa, reports Heavylift & Project Forwarding International.

“The company has long offered services to locations such and Malabo and Tincan Island, but recent surges in demand and some large scale projects have prompted further expansion into the region,” says the company. Tuscor Lloyds offers some less travelled routes to ports along the west coast and can now provide inland carriages to many more difficult to reach places in central and western Africa.

“As always, we offer strong project cargo, out of gauge, breakbulk, conventional and ro-ro services as part of our offering,” the company adds.

The company has recently completed projects for civil engineering, heavy manufacturing and the energy sectors throughout the region, including a major contract moving a large pump for a mine ventilation/air extraction machine on a 40 ft flat rack container from Felixstowe to South Africa.

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Breakbulk cargo, in this case citrus fruit being loaded at Maydon Wharf. Picture by Terry Hutson


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Maydon Wharf and the sugar terminal – approx. 77,000 people are employed by the sugar industry. Picture by Steve McCurrach www.airserv.co.za

Pretoria – Although South Africa’s economy is showing growth, it continues to face uncertain times, says Deputy Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene.

“There is no room for complacency and we continue to face a great deal of uncertainty during this current period of adjustment within the global economy,” he said.

The deputy minister was speaking at an event hosted by the Sugar Industry Trust Fund for Education in Durban on Wednesday.

In the first quarter of 2011, South Africa’s economy grew by 4.8 percent.

“While this recovery is stronger than a year ago in South Africa and in most other emerging market countries, its foundations are not yet sustainable; and it is still highly dependent on support from expansionary fiscal and monetary policies,” said Nene.

Skills challenges and education still are issues to be confronted by the Republic and a vibrant economy is needed to address poverty and unemployment.

“Unemployment represents our greatest challenge: only 13 million South Africans, or 41 percent of the working-age population, have regular work,” explained the deputy minister.

He expressed concern at the high level of unemployment among the youth at 42 percent. “Although the economy has recovered, employment is still below its pre-crisis level. Something must be done.”

The New Growth Path, which aims to create five million jobs in the next decade, is estimated to create over a million jobs in infrastructure development and housing, while a further 500,000 jobs would be created in the agricultural sector and 350,000 in manufacturing. Tourism is targeting 225,000 jobs and mining 140,000.

The deputy minister said higher employment in the manufacturing sector, meanwhile, will rely on successful implementation of the second Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP2), which was also unveiled last year to provide new direction and impetus to South African manufacturing.

The reform of development finance institutions is also underway.

Nene said the Path will fail to meet its targets if an environment that is conducive to private-sector growth and business investment is not promoted. “This requires Government to provide economic stability and reduce the cost of capital through sound macroeconomic policies.”

The deputy minister acknowledged the role played by the private sugar industry in its efforts to create opportunities, such as giving bursaries for studies in agriculture, sciences and engineering. “These areas are among the critical skills required to fuel our sustainable and inclusive economic growth.”

The South African sugar industry generates an annual estimated average direct income of R8 billion, with direct employment within the sugar industry at approximately 77,000 jobs. – BuaNews


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Mediterranean Shipping Company’s container ship MSC ZAMBIA, the ex NYK Sirius (76,847-gt, built 1998), in Cape Town harbour this last week. Pictures by Ian Shiffman

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